Giving the Dream

Our fearless leader, caught up in an avalanche of stuff.

I live a life of swag. Seriously. My garage is a pile of bikes, skis, snowboards, crampons, headlamps, guitars, sleds, jog strollers, jackets and stuff sacks—all in the midst of some type of test so that I can recommend the best outdoor gear out there to you (or something like that). Now some people might think of my particular occupation as a good example of living the dream, but I have to admit, it depresses me sometimes.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love gear and I’m lucky to get to test all of it. I’m enough of a dork that I actually enjoy comparing the breathability of Gore’s new Active Shell fabric and Polartec’s NeoShell. I once spent an amazing two-hour drive with former pro-skier and current badass activist Alison Gannett, discussing the intricacies of ski edges (and the fate of the planet). I could write a manifesto on the relative merits of pit zips. The problem is all this stuff is, well, stuff. Hey, we need stuff. Stuff creates jobs and happiness in that a whole economic web of people depend on people buying gear to raise families and enjoy life. But is that it?

I’m not sure where I stand on the Occupy Wall Street protests, but when I do get harsh on folks out making what seem like pipe-dream demands in the streets, I remember a younger version of myself at the Seattle WTO protests in 1999. I remember living on a friend’s couch and working to make proposals for wilderness in Idaho (that finally saw fruition two years ago in the Omnibus Lands Bill). I think of when I roamed the Beaverhead–Deerlodge National Forest teaching the gospel of Leave No Trace. It wasn’t always just about stuff.

What have I become?

When a family member asks me what I want for Christmas… I’m never sure what to say. I don’t need anything. I don’t really want much either since most of the gear I covet ends up on my doorstep eventually so that I can test it out. But a few years ago, I received a simple email announcing a gift from my brother. It was $25 to invest in a loan. I read up on microfinance, a lending practice championed by Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus at his Grameen Bank. Basically, loan poor people the very small amounts they need to start a business and take care of themselves.

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